By Jon Cassidy | Ohio Watchdog
Video that shows Obama volunteers in Texas and New Jersey helping undercover reporters register to vote in more than one state would clearly violate Ohio law, too.
The video seems to show a staff person in the Houston office of Organizing for America office helping an undercover journalist register to vote for Barack Obama in Florida despite the reporter’s expressed intention to vote twice in the hotly contested presidential race.
“The provisions of Ohio Revised Code Section 3599.11 expressly make it a felony to either register to vote by use of a false statement or to induce another person to register to vote by means of a false statement(s),” said William M. Todd, an elections lawyer in Columbus. “One of the critical elements of being a qualified voter in Ohio is to be a resident of this state. Accordingly, the type of scenario in the snippet below, if it occurred in Ohio would violate Ohio law.”
Mark Weaver, a former deputy attorney general for Ohio who teaches elections law at the University of Akron, said, “As a general rule, someone who knowingly assists another in the commission of a crime can be prosecuted for acting as an accessory or conspiracy.”
Independent journalist James O’Keefe is best known for a video in which he gets advice on setting up an underage whorehouse from employees of the community organization group ACORN, and another that led to the resignations of National Public Radio’s president and a top fundraiser.
One new video produced by O’Keefe’s Project Veritas shows Democratic activists in New York helping register an undercover reporter who says he’s going to vote twice — in Minnesota and in New York.
But the most arresting footage shows an Organizing for America staffer in the group’s Houston office providing a video journalist with an application to request a Florida mail-in ballot, even though the journalist has made it clear she intends also to vote in Texas.
O’Keefe, whose Project Veritas organization produced the video, identified the OFA staffer as Stephanie Caballero. Documents reviewed by Watchdog.org, and included in the video, indicate that Caballero is on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee.
When the undercover reporter declares that she intends to vote twice in the general election, Caballero laughs. She asks the reporter, “Are you going to do what I think you’re going to do?”
“Well,” the reporter replies, “I mean, if no one’s going to know . . . .”
Caballero laughs and replies, “You’re so hilarious.”
“I have several friends who have done that and they said that it’s no problem so I figure . . . no one knows,” the undercover reporter says.
In response, the campaign worker seems to suggest that the legal problem of voting in two states is less important than the practical problem of what to say if you’re caught voting twice: “Come up with like, if anyone checks, say, ‘I don’t know.’”
“You can’t vote twice in a federal election,” said J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department elections lawyer and author of “Injustice,” a best-selling novel about voter fraud. “Obviously, this Stephanie Caballero doesn’t find it as offensive as I do that someone may be planning to vote twice.”
Specifically, Adams said, voting twice violates 42 U.S.C. 1973i (e), which states that anyone who “conspires with another individual for the purpose of encouraging his false registration to vote… shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years.”
O’Keefe’s critics accuse him of selectively editing his tapes. For example, one of those ACORN volunteers was actually playing along in order to go to the police, and one of the fundraiser’s taped comments was in response to an entirely different question than the one on tape.
But Clark Hoyt, the former public editor of The New York Times, watched the uncut ACORN footage and said, “the most damning words match the transcripts and the audio, and do not seem out of context.”
“We’ve always made the raw tapes available,” O’Keefe told Ohio Watchdog. “They’re going to criticize me for selective editing even if nothing is taken out of context.”
On one version of the tape, there’s a 30-second gap during the interaction between the two women at the Houston Organizing for America office.
“There’s nothing in that gap that is of significance,” O’Keefe. He said the cuts were to eliminate dead air and banter.
“We’ll make the raw stuff available,” he said.
Experts agreed that the tape depicted illegal behavior.
“It’s absolutely illegal to help someone double vote,” said Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He cited 42 U.S.C. 1973gg-10.
“A lot of people don’t realize that, in addition to everything that everyone knows about the National Voter Registration Act — that it allowed mail-in ballots and registration through vehicle licensing departments — the last part of the statute put in criminal penalties for fraudulent registration,” said von Spakovsky, who had not yet seen the video.
Chief among the crimes outlined in the code, said von Spakovsky, is the requirement that “you can only register someplace where your claim to be a permanent resident. Obviously, you can’t be a resident of two states.”
Helping someone circumvent that law during the registration process? “That would be a violation because you’re submitting fraudulent information in a registration form,” von Spakovsky said.
Von Spakovsky said prosecutors might also charge voter-registration workers in similar situations with more general violations — conspiracy, for instance, and aiding and abetting a criminal act.
Then, too, there’s the fact that cases like those in the O’Keefe video are open to both federal and local prosecution, von Spakovsky said.
“The key is, and this is what you’ll see in the statue, if you double vote with a federal candidate on the ballot, you’ve violated federal law,” von Spakovsky said. “If the same ballot includes local candidates, that’s a violation of state law.”
Von Spakovsky pointed to a fraud case prosecuted locally after the 2008 election. In that incident, he said, “a number of Obama campaign workers were charged in Ohio after it was discovered they were residents of other states sent to Ohio to work on the campaign. They took advantage of easy registration laws there to vote in Ohio, even though they were not residents of state.”
In their book “Who’s counting? How fraudsters and bureaucrats put your vote at risk,” von Spakovsky and co-author John Fund say the Ohio prosecution ended in admissions of guilt by the campaign workers.
Election observers say the problem of double-voting is greater in states like Florida, winter home to visitors with permanent residences in colder parts of the country. One group found cross-referenced voter registration lists between Ohio and Florida to identify voters with matching full names, birth dates, addresses and voting histories.
Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote, a nonpartisan election-integrity organization, said her group found more than 19,000 Ohio voters claiming Florida mailing addresses. More than 6,390 people held voter registrations in both states.
True The Vote reportedly found 534 individuals casting ballots in federal elections in both Ohio and Florida. Engelbrecht said 34 cases were turned over to federal and state authorities for investigation last week.
Additional reporting by Kenric Ward and Will Swaim.
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